Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Verdugo ParkToday we visit some new material by SKOM favorite Brandon Schott. Brandon’s new EP “Verdugo Park” is just three songs. The opener, the titular “Verdugo Park”, is an amalgam of Schott’s influences and is catchy as hell. Seriously, I’ve had it stuck in my head since I first listened to it. I want to go to Verduga Park. I want to get on the merry-go-round and sing this song. You will too. Then we head into the psychedelia wonderland that is the instrumental “Lapiz Lazuli”. This song is 2 minutes of pure 1960’s freakout. Talk about atmosphere, these two minutes have it. The instrumentation on “Lapiz Lazuli” and “Verdugo Park” is lush and complex. I kept hearing something new with each listen. And trust me, you will want to keep listening.

The third song, a cover of the Sherman Brothers’ “Castaway” from the movie ‘In Search Of The Castaways‘, stands in stark contrast to the other two songs. It is a simple and straight forward arrangement. It is just as atmospheric as the other two songs, but on the other side of the scale.

And then you are done. That’s it. And you are sitting there wondering “Where’s the rest?” “Why don’t I have a WHOLE ALBUM full of this?” And then you go to pre-order the EP here and you read

“VERDUGO PARK” is the 2nd single (following last winter’s “HENRY”) from Brandon’s upcoming 5th full length album, “Crayons & Angels”

And you breathe a sigh of relief. And you realize “life can’t be that hard in Verdugo Park.” Some day you will have a WHOLE ALBUM! In the meantime pre-order the EP at the link above and then watch the video for “Verdugo Park” below.

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GR-Album-1400x1400I was overjoyed when Scott Woeckel of Gentleman Road reached out to me and asked if I wanted to hear an advanced copy of their soon to be released EP. I’m not a huge fan of country in general, though that’s been changing recently, but I am a huge fan of Gentleman Road. They are, for me, Alt Country without the Alt. I know, weird way to describe it, but it is what it is. I always get a little early 90’s alt-vibe from these guys and yet, there is not an alternative riff to be heard.

Fireflies & Gasoline is 5 songs of grade A material. From track 1, “Love About Music”, to track 5, “The Trucker”, I was thoroughly entertained and felt as if I was really picking up what these guys were putting down. The musicianship is there and Gentleman Road is a tight outfit. The lyrics were imminently relatable and I could grasp were the band was coming from. Let’s jump in and get a little more in depth. 

Love About Music jumps right in with a quick intro and then is down to business. It has a great beat and a great hook in the chorus. I feel like I’m in a honky tonk listening to a band. I can picture the wooden support posts, the dance floor, and the audience dancing and having a good time. It also features some amazing pedal steel work by Charlie Peterson.

Buick Century keeps the groove moving and I can still see people dancing to it, but it has a more sentimental and nostalgic feel. Gentleman Road really evoke days of a recent past.

Moonshine seems primed for audience sing along with it’s longer flowing chorus. It’s the kind of song that makes me want to sit on my porch with a beer in the sun and just soak it in.

Fireflies & Gasoline slows things down a bit, but fret not. It’s a good time to just groove and enjoy the pedal steel created mood and listen to a beautiful turn of phrase. This song highlights one of the things I also like about Gentleman Road; inventive phrase that immediately evoke an image and a feeling.

The Trucker drives it all home and drives us to the end of the EP. I love the drum beat on this one. It’s more of a classic country boogie vibe than some of the other songs. Also, any song that features the words “18 wheeler” is golden. That’s a scientific fact.

This is a great EP with just the best songs on it. There is no filler. I was left wanting though as I would love to have a full album by these guys. I can only hope that they have enough success to fund a larger project. To that end I highly recommend throwing your money at them, or at least purchase this EP when it’s available. BTW it will be available on VINYL. That’s right. Great songs AND vinyl. You can’t lose.

Give Moonshine a listen here: https://gentlemanroad.bandcamp.com/track/moonshine













Gentleman Road is: Scott Woeckel, Charlie Peterson, Moose McMains, Michael Kaufman





Gentleman Road was formerly Everyday Ghost. I interviewed Scott from them here.



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beta_lion_written_in_sandBeta Lion’s Written In Sand invites the listener to be a part of an audience. The first sounds are those of a small crowd in a venue. Big organ sounds and anthemic, militaristic drums follow. The first track, $15 Ladies, seems to depart from the organ intro and yet some of the same drum and organ elements do appear in the song. From the very beginning Written In Sand feels like a larger effort than it’s five tracks would seem to imply. Beta Lion are creating an experience that feels like a mini concept album. Each song is linked to the other and carries the listener throughout.

Written In Sand is reminiscent of many of the great alternative albums of the 80’s. When alternative music was still just labelled “college radio.” The album, however, does not sound like a band wearing its influences on its sleeve. This is not an homage to great music of the past. Beta Lion are extremely authentic in their song writing. The EP is sort of like all the best scenes from the best 80’s teen movies. Everything that needed to be resolved has been resolved, the camera holds on one of the main characters as he/she looks on with an expression of compassion, acceptance, and wisdom. The journey has been worth it. Friendships have been lost, new friendships have been made, and the characters are stronger, wiser, and better for all the hardships and good times experienced in their coming of age story. And so are we, the listeners, better off for having listened to Written In Sand.

Even though this EP is a collection of songs written over a period of years it feels like a complete album. I don’t really want to give you a track by track rundown because this does feel like something that should be experienced as a whole. But, I will give you this quote from Mark Fulinara of Beta Lion that adds incredible perspective to the project:

 The fifth and title track of the EP, “Written In Sand,” is a newer song about how we never released an entire catalogue of old songs; and it’s lyrics are made of up lyrics from some of our more ‘popular’ old songs.  It’s like an easter egg hunt for the people who have followed us for so long.  I consider this EP to be the prequel to our 2012 demo “I Believe In Beta Lion.”  With this EP completed, we’re ready to keep the momentum going with a full length album of our latest and greatest material.

Keep your eye on these guys and if you are lucky enough to see them live do it!

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Today I am reviewing songs sent my way by Brandon Schott. Brandon was kind enough to let me interview him for Some Kind Of Muffin before. From that interview you would know that Schott has battled cancer and is currently in remission so the two charities discussed here hit close to home for him.  First up are two songs for the Songs For Aidan project. You can find out more at http://www.live-the-proof.com/songs-for-aidan.html, but let me share some selected quotes.

Aidan’s particular type of cancer requires him to spend a lot of time in the hospital. He has to be admitted to Children’s hospital every two weeks to receive his chemotherapy. He has two day admissions which aren’t that bad and five day admissions which are difficult for him. Near the end of those five day stays, he gets pretty homesick and just generally sad.

We had an idea for a project that might lift his spirits. We’ve created a YouTube channel called “Songs For Aidan” and I was hoping that we could get musicians / artists from all over to offer a little personal word or two of encouragement and play a song for him. When he’s stuck in the hospital and feeling down, we can show him the videos so he can see just how many people are pulling for him and really there’s nothing cooler than having someone play and sing a song just for you.

The Youtube channel can be found here.

To lend additional support Brandon Schott and Jim Boggia are offering two songs as part of Songs For Aidan. They are available as a CD or digital download and can both be found at the Live The Proof Link above. Jim Boggia’s song “Live The Proof” is a great acoustic offering. The song has minimal production and deceptively simple instrumentation. There are small bits of percussion and keyboard that add a lot, but are kept low in the mix. Boggia’s voice is immediate and personable. The lyrics are all about action and reaction and the choices we make based on our circumstances and are intelligently written and fit with Songs For Aidan beautifully. Brandon Schott’s “Turning Toward The Sun” is similarly themed; it discusses chance and how we react. It is a much more atmospheric number. I would use the term “expansive.” It stretches out and envelopes you. Again, there is minimal instrumentation and it is used to great effect.

Schott’s other release “You Take My Breath Away” is also a double single and it benefits The Benjamin Center in Santa Monica, CA. To learn more about what went into this project I recommend checking out the Popdose interview with him which also has additional info on how the Songs For Aidan project happened. The song “You Take My Breath Away” features piano and pedal steel guitar played by Portland’s own Tucker Jackson. It is a beautiful song full of imagery  and emotion. Listening to the lyrics I was transported to a “sweet sacred place” and could see everything unfold before me. The second song, “Now”, is wonderfully layered vocal harmonies without lyrics, though I am sure I hear the word “now” right around the :35 mark.

All of the songs are well done. They sound great and are not throw aways for charity; they are well-crafted pieces and I highly recommend listening to them and then BUYING them. All of the proceeds go to great causes. I reposting the pertinent links below as well to make sure it is easy for you to find. Please, please, please give a listen and consider helping out.



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Happy New Year everybody! Been taking a long break to enjoy the holidays here with the fam. Came across this today and thought I would pass it along.

Coin Guitar Picks

Buy here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/GuitarPickCollection?section_id=11814989

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Today I am proud to bring you a review of the Killswitch Engage concert I attended at the Hawthorne Theater. I am really excited because this is our first guest review! Dylan DePriest kindly asked me along to the show and even more kindly agreed to write up the review! Oh, and when he talks about “the Reverend” that’s me and here’s why (<–follow link).

Killswitch Engage

Killswitch Engage concert review
28 November 2012
Portland, OR
It was a typical cold Wednesday night in Portland. For many it was the milestone marking the middle of the work week, but for metalheads it was the night that Acaro, Shadows Fall, and Killswitch Engage were performing in our great city. This show’s placement in the middle of the work week refined the crowd from people finding something to do on their day off to people who would risk their sleep schedules to see three amazing bands.
I’ve always found that waiting in line outside of the venue is a great start to a show because you get to hear what people say about the bands. The Reverend and I stood right next to someone who was less than affectionate for Shadows Fall; we noted this because her choice to use derogatory terms in her description of the band rather than her choosing to use a more logical and fact-based argument that other people would use. (editor’s note: she called Brian Fair, Shadows Fall’s lead singer “gay” and she didn’t mean he was homosexual, so clearly she is font of taste and discernment, or you know someone who needs to be made aware that is not cool) This conversation continued until we had finally passed Hawthorne Theatre’s security.
Acaro were the opening act for the night and they sounded great and performed great as well. Unfortunately the crowd was pretty weak at this point in the show because that the place wasn’t full and people weren’t warmed up yet. Two guys along with the Reverend and I were the only ones moshing which was fun, but it wasn’t super intense in terms of overall crowd intensity. Acaro’s set was great in terms of performance, but they only played about half an hour.
By the time Shadows Fall came on, the crowd had filled in significantly which brought along the 300 lb. moshers, which pretty much ruled my participation out. Shadows Fall were amazing performers, excelling significantly in their manipulation of the stage lighting and their ability to excite the crowd. Also, Brian Fair’s dreads were a great addition in terms of the visual aspect of the set. The crowd was great as well, people had started to stagedive and be more involved in the metal experience. (editor’s note: DD did plenty of stagediving his own self)
After two great acts, Killswitch Engage performed and did a damn good job of it too. Killswitch Engage started with some Howard Jones-era songs, which was really quite great to experience since Jesse Leach is the band’s vocalist again. The band then performed their entire “Alive or Just Breathing” record. I’ve listened to that record many times from start to finish and it never gets old, so having the live experience was absolutely amazing and, based upon the way the crowd acted, they felt largely the same too. After performing the entire record, Killswitch ended with two more Howard Jones-era songs, ultimately bringing their set to around two hours in length.
This concert was one of the greatest shows I have ever been to. After the opening, the crowd was intense, responsive, and fully engaged in the metal experience. While the show was at a small venue, which is a complaint from many people but not from me, the show was amazing and the music was loud. All three of these bands were great performers and even though I wasn’t completely familiar with all of the songs by the first two bands, they made an environment that was great for new fans and diehards alike. This will be a show that I will remember for many years to come.

I can’t thank Dylan enough for inviting me along and for writing this review.

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My sister, Mo, is in town. She’s in town because we are David Byrne-ing it up!(Byrne-ing down the house?) Tonight we get to see him talk about his book How Music Works with Carrie Brownstein, but last night we saw him perform with St. Vincent(Annie Clark) in support of their collaborative album Love This Giant

Intention. Beauty. Art. That is what we witnessed. I’ll be honest. I don’t really know how to write this review; how to properly convey the experience I had. Let me start with the basics and go from there.

There was a minimalist stage set up; just a few stage lights and a plain white backdrop. This was used to great affect when setting the mood. Byrne and St. Vincent both convey an amazing stage presence and are amazing vocalists and, as Mrs. Muffin said, St. Vincent has Prince-like chops on the guitar. The eight-piece horn section, drummer, and keyboardist were tight-every single one of them consummate musicians. Each song had it’s own choreography whether it was dancing, marching around the stage or even having the horn section and Byrne lie down so the attention was aimed at St. Vincent.

Everything was so focussed and thoughtful and every song was so good and every performer so on their game. And here is the part that is kind of hard to explain. I have been to many concerts and had an amazing time. There are times when the artist or band and the audience are so in sync that it becomes transcendent (Belly at LaLuna in ’95 comes to mind). While last night’s concert did not attain that kind of transcendence, it did offer something else-at least to me. About three songs in it all hit me: David Byrne, St. Vincent, the horn section, the drummer, the keyboardist, the amount of work, dedication, passion, talent, and the level of the craft that I was witnessing and then it happened. Bear with me here kids….my eyes watered…they teared up. I didn’t cry, but I would say I was moved to tears. I have heard people talk about being brought to tears by artwork or a piece of music and have never gotten it. I understand those things bringing out something that is already inside of a person, but never believed the art or music did it in and of itself. Maybe I had something inside me that recognized what was going on up on the stage last night, but it seemed bigger than that and it definitely didn’t feel like it was about me.

Of note:
They played three encores and when they introduced the members of the horn section they pointed out that each person had their own table in the lobby selling merchandise for their individual bands they are in outside of the Love This Giant project. That’s class, folks.

Every song was amazing. That is rare, but it’s true.

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Last night I got to see Ion Storm‘s inaugural show! They were amazing from the first song to the last. For those unaware I interviewed  them here. Go get acquainted with them and then come right back. It’s OK. I’ll wait.

Everything I’ve heard from them so far has impressed me, but those were only recordings. One really must see them live to get the full impact. First, amazing guitar tone and a pretty tight outfit. I know these guys practice up to 12 hours at a go and it shows. Their current bass player is a recent addition and it showed a bit, but overall he brought the low end. Drummer Tim was solid, fast, and interesting. I thought there was a moment when he was losing the beat, but it was just a part of a tempo change that was written into the song. Grady and Chris had some great harmonized riffage going on that seemed to focus around 4ths and it sounded great. My main complaint was the vocal levels. This show was at the Red Room and their vocals always seem low, but Grady represented growl well.

Oh, did I mention they have a Minotaur? His name is Drew. Look at him.

Do you have a Minotaur? No, you do not. I played bullfighter with Drew for a bit. It was good times.

This band has a lot to offer and brought the heat, which leads me to the title of this post. Look up there ↑ and read it again. At most there were three people up off their butts rocking out, including me and Drew. I wish that this was the exception rather than the rule. I know people want to blame smart phones etc, but it’s not that. In my estimation it’s our self reflective, self conscious society. To put it another way: we are afraid of having fun and looking like fools(Well, not me clearly. I played bullfighter with a Minotaur). It needs to stop now. Do it for yourself. Get up!! Dance! Bang your head!! Visibly enjoy yourself!!!

But also do it for that band up there on the stage or the one on the floor where the pool tables had to be moved to make room. They don’t spend 12 hours at a go writing and rehearsing so you can sit there drinking your PBR and golf clapping after every song. And I can guarantee you they didn’t do it for the money, because bands rarely get paid much if anything just starting out. This is a two way street. They are there for you and you need to be there for them.

Some pics from the show:

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So I was very lucky to see Eric Johnson last night thanks to my good friend, Ted (he’s also my step-father-in-law. What? that’s a thing.) I’ve only seen him live in concert once before. Eric Johnson, not Ted. I’ve seen Ted live lots before, though not in concert… I was 16 ( again referring to Eric Johnson not Ted), it was in San Diego at Symphony Hall, and an as yet unknown, at least to me, Sarah Mclaughlin opened for him. This time around it was at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, Or. First let me say it is a great venue. Everyone I talked to said a version of “not a bad seat in the whole place” and they are right.

It was a great show. Eric was backed by Chris Maresh on bass and Wayne Salzmann II on drums. Maresh and Salzman are amazing!  Really interesting thing, they seemed to be their own opening band. They played a 45 min set and then took a break and then came back for a full set. I almost wish I had written down their set, but honestly I was too engaged in just enjoying the show and letting it wash over me.

Eric Johnson was one of my early guitar heroes. He has it all. Amazing tone, great technique, dedication to writing songs that fit his perspective of what is great, and he also has one of the two right hands in guitardom that I would want, the other being James Hetfield’s. Seriously, EJ can pick like nobody’s business and finger pick, and do a combination of both.

Check out the Fenders and Marshall and EJ’s pedals!

The Show 

The opening 45 minute set was tight and rocking great energy with some crowd favorites. After the break EJ was solo on the stage with an acoustic and played a few songs that blew me away. His technique is insane. For those of you who do not play let me tell you it is easier to shred on an electric than an acoustic and EJ played flawlessly on his acoustic and did shred, but in a tasteful way. Yes, yes he did.
Maresh and Salzman came back out and the band got to rocking again. Then, about halfway through the second set they played “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” and this was the first wrong note for me. Now, let me be clear-I. Love. That. Song. But, it came after an incredible version of a Coltrane song that highlighted everyone’s talents. Side note: Salzman owned those drums and Maresh made me consider giving up the bass.

Chris Maresh’s pedal board

Back to my point. It may have been that “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” came after such an amazing performance, but EJ also seemed to be a little off his game at this point. His phrasing was a little stuttery. THAT may have been due to the fact that they just got back from Europe and had been awake since 6 a.m. But I think there is more to it than that. When they played some other songs off of “Ah Via Musicom” I noticed the same thing, but when they played newer songs or covers EJ seemed to be more on. To clarify, not bagging on him, it was still better than 95% of guitarists out there when EJ was off. So no “Eff you dude” and no “Yeah he sucks.”

There was one encore and it was great! They closed with “Wind Cries Mary.” And then it was over and I didn’t want it to be over. But I scrambled up front to get some pictures, which was difficult because there was still a grip of people at the front milling about.

Drums and bass rig

Final Thoughts

Eric Johnson is stil the man at 57. The newer material is stronger than one might expect and my observations on the “Ah Via Musicom” aside he is still vital. I look forward to seeing him the next time he comes around. Also, I still need this jacket ↓

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The second I learned about these I had to have one. They are big fun. Adventures In… is playing with it as I type. I was first introduced to it via BoingBoing. Want a synth, but don’t have a lot of room? Get a Stylophone. I’m not going to type too much as I need to get back to it to figure out the theme to Doctor Who so what follows will be a bunch of links. But first, a picture of my brand new toy.

It’s for sale at ThinkGeek for $19.99 plus shipping which puts it at $24.99

Or better yet, do what I did, which is buy it from ThinkGeek through Amazon, which as of this writing has it for $14.99 plus shipping so it winds up at $19.99 or there abouts. This is basically my birthday gift to myself.

There are a lot of youtube videos so you can check it out. I recommend starting with Brett Domino
Stylophoniac: A Short Film by Brett Domino.

80s Hits Medley – STYLOPHONE

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